The Office of Management and Budget released guidance today that answers some big questions about the hiring freeze. It includes very good news for anyone who had a firm offer and acceptance in hand before January 22, 2017. Here are the key points:
People who received and accepted a job offer made before the 22nd, with reporting date before February 22, 2017, are approved to report for work. That is great news for those folks. For people who have an offer and acceptance, but who are not scheduled to report until after February 22, 2017, agencies are directed to review the position to determine if they should go forward with or revoke the offer. In making those decisions, the guidance instructs agency heads to consider merit principles, agency mission essential priorities, and resources and funding. Compared to previous hiring freezes (particularly the Reagan freeze), this is a very reasonable policy. It does not automatically revoke offers, and it allows agency heads to make the call for new hires with reporting dates after February 22, 2017.
Further guidance is coming. The memo specifically states that OMB and/or OPM are working on additional guidance regarding exemptions, reporting requirements, and other aspects of the freeze. The fact that OMB turned around the initial guidance in one day is a good sign and it demonstrates that they are interested in reducing uncertainty.
Exemptions by agency heads should be limited. The memo refers to agency heads making “…limited exemptions that they deem necessary to ensure national security or public safety.” The presidential memorandum ordering the freeze left the extent of such exemptions unstated. The new guidance, by referring to “limited” exemptions is putting some boundaries or reasonableness around agency head discretion.
Today’s guidance does not address issues such as career promotions, reassignments within agencies, or numerous other issues agencies have raised, but it is a good start on defining the scope of the freeze.